Police contract goes to hearing tonight

Referendum set for Tuesday

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ST. ALBANS — The St. Albans Town Selectboard will hold a public informational hearing tonight regarding the municipal police services contract, which goes to a public vote on Tuesday.

The hearing is scheduled as the first item on the selectboard’s 6:30 p.m. regular meeting agenda. Town residents tonight will have a final chance to ask questions and share input regarding the police services contract before the non-binding, advisory vote.

Town voters on Tuesday have the choice to vote “yes” to a contract offer from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for the next three years, or can vote “no,” which would imply support for extending the current contract with the city and the St. Albans Police Department.

The first two years of a contract with the sheriff’s office would cost $100,000 more than the city contract for each year. Members of the selectboard, already at odds with the city over water/sewer services, have stated that the referendum approach to the police contract was the logical approach. There was no vote in 2011 when the former selectboard approved a contract for the city instead of the sheriff’s office, which previously provided law enforcement coverage in the town.

Selectboard members Bernie Boudreau, Steve Coon and Brent Palmer, when elected in 2012, said they wanted police matters to be put to voters.

Tuesday’s vote is statutorily non-binding, as decisions regarding law enforcement contracts are left to the selectboard members to decide. Boudreau and Palmer stated this fall they would make their decision based on the outcome of the public referendum.

Some residents during previous public hearings urged the selectboard to not be swayed by the town vote. They argued that selectboard members are elected to represent the town in making decisions like this.

The debate thus far also has involved expressions of dissatisfaction with St. Albans Police’s handling of a small number of incidents in the town. In each case, Gary Taylor, St. Albans Police chief, has defended his force’s actions presenting specifics as to why the incidents were handled as they were, or by pointing out what he said was incorrect information behind the allegations.

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Center.

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